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Embracing Millennials

Posted on July 19, 2017
Image of hands all around the edge with the word Millennial in the middle

How often have you heard, "The Millennial generation is lazy; They don't respect power structures or they need constant reinforcement" — in other words, that they are the generation that expects a trophy just for showing up?

That statement is not only wrong, but it also inhibits communication between generations. Think about it: if an elder (by that I mean a Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer) approaches the new 25-year-old employee with the notion the person is lazy and will balk at the corporate structure, what does that mean for future communication between these two individuals?

Inhibiting communication has serious implications in the workplace:

  • The older employee becomes unwilling to learn anything new from the younger employee
  • The younger employee can't develop respect for the older employee, which results in lost opportunities for the company
  • Collaboration becomes more and more difficult
  • Creativity dwindles

My advice to the Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers (by the way, I am on the cusp of these two generations) is to be open to the ideas and philosophies these amazing young people bring with them.

I recently attended a panel discussion with four incredible people, all of them accomplished Millennials, contributing to the greater good. Maya Enista Smith, executive director of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation; Kristen Campbell, executive director of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE); Kari Saratovsky, principal of the Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies and author of Cause of Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement; and Michael D. Smith, strategic advisor to The Obama Foundation. The panel was moderated by Alison T. Young, managing director of Leadership & Civic Engagement at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.

Maya Enista Smith encouraged the audience, ranging in age from late teens to late sixties (and maybe older), to “Believe in the power of Millennials — their voice, their diversity, and their desire.” I think her sentiment drives my point home. Be open to what Millennials have to offer and what they stand for, because this generation has a mission. She added that Millennials are “…not going to leave a job to do good; they want to do good in the job."

Millennials want more than previous generations. They want to not only work for “good,” but they also want to model doing “good” for their children. They want to tear down restrictive boundaries, paving the way to do things their elder counterparts may have never thought possible. Kari Saratovsky added to this when she said, “Millennials make organizations work harder.” According to a 2015 Guardian article, Millennials Want to Work for Employees Committed to Values and Ethics by Matthew Jenkin, “62% [of Millennials] want to work for a company that makes a positive impact...”

So, instead of criticizing this generation, let’s celebrate them, their vision, and their idea that working for good is not simply rewarding and something we do as a hobby, but rather that it is possible and even necessary to make it a central part of one’s life. If we embrace these talented visionaries and take a page out of their books in progress, perhaps we can learn something about ourselves in the process.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Director of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University
Posted in professional-development-career-tips, leadership-management-skills